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12 Landscaping Ideas for Small Backyards

Nice backyard landscape with well kept lawn, flower beds and wooden fence. Northwest, USA
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When the weather warms up enough to venture outside, it’s a great time to update your backyard for outdoor living. Have a post-it backyard? No worries! Just because your backyard is small, that doesn’t mean you can’t transform it into your own private paradise.

Since you’re working in a limited space, you can do small backyard landscaping on a modest budget without taking up too much time. The hard part is deciding what you want to do with your backyard because there are so many options. To help you decide, here are some of the best small yard landscaping ideas.

Do big things with your small space: 12 brilliant small yard ideas

1. Broken pot fairy garden

Lighted fairy house in broken garden pot at night

Westend61 / Getty Images

Add a whimsical and fun design element to your backyard with a potted fairy garden. This inexpensive project only requires a large clay pot, soil, small plants, and moss. Embellish with small outdoor furniture to create a one-of-a-kind conversation piece that captures the imagination.

And get your kids involved! Let them express their creativity and surprise you with their creations!

2. Rock garden with decorative stone

Landscaping combinations of grass, plant and stones

mbolina / Getty Images

The options are pretty much limitless when creating a rock garden out of colorful decorative stone. The size and scope of your design are up to you, which makes this project great for a small yard.

Mark the boundaries of your rock garden and cover it with a plastic substrate to prevent weeds. Then, lay out the rocks in whatever pattern you wish. A popular method is to have an overturned pot with decorative rocks spilling out of it as if they were water.

As long as your design isn’t overly ambitious, you can rock this project solo if you want.

3. Giant outdoor chess

Two little sisters playing giant chess

MNStudio / Getty Images

Love to play chess? Love sitting outdoors? Then you’ll love having your own giant chessboard outdoors.

Simply create a grid using pavers of your choice. You can alternate pavers with turf to create the board, or you can use two different colors (like black and white). Complete this fun and interactive design element with a bench on either side and giant chess pieces.

You can easily complete this project by yourself, but it takes two to play!

4. Backyard sandbox

Child plays in his backyard sandbox

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Your kids will spend countless hours in an affordable, DIY sandbox. Redwood fence posts are a durable choice for lumber, especially if you live in a dry or desert climate. Complete the sandbox with a canopy to protect your children from the sun.

Note that this project might be a bit labor-intensive for one person, and it helps to have some experience using power tools.

5. Raised garden beds

Raised beds in backyard garden

David Burton / Getty Images

If you’re all about being self-sufficient, convert a section of your backyard into a food source. You don’t need a big yard to grow veggies as long as you have plenty of sun. Building raised garden beds is easy and inexpensive, as long as you have some experience with power tools.

While you can build a raised garden bed by yourself, it helps to have an extra pair of hands. Just be sure you’re ready to commit some extra time to tend to your harvest.

6. DIY fire pit

Backyard patio DIY fire pit

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If you dream of sitting in your backyard with friends until the sun comes up, make it happen with an inviting fire pit. All you need is gravel, bricks, a steel fire ring, a few tools, and a helping hand.

7. Garden pond

Patio and pond in the afternoon sun

Eirasophie / Getty Images

A water feature can bring a relaxing and meditative mood to your backyard. Adding one is easier than you might think, especially if you use a preformed pond liner. Excavate a hole large enough to hold the liner and secure it with sand and rocks. You’ll need a submersible pump to circulate the water and keep it from getting stagnant. Decorate the pond with aquatic plants and suitable fish.

8. Xeriscape landscape

Xeriscaping backyard

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Xeriscaping is ideal for dry, arid environments susceptible to droughts. This low-maintenance approach is great for folks who don’t want to bother toiling in a garden or cutting a ton of grass. It also saves on water.

To get started, you’ll need to excavate your backyard and lay down a weed barrier, and then lay down gravel and decomposed granite. You can build small garden beds with paver stones.

You can make this a DIY project or hire a professional landscape designer to create some breathtaking designs.

9. Butterfly garden

Black Swallowtail Butterflies in the Colorful Garden

Marcia Straub / Getty Images

If you’re looking for a project that not only looks beautiful but also helps mother nature, try a butterfly garden. Landscaping with plants like echinacea, lavender, feverfew, and bee balm will attract butterflies and other pollinators, like bees. These perennial plants are easy to take care of, making a butterfly garden a cheap and easy backyard project for anyone.

10. Meditation labyrinth

Serene meditation labyrinth for self reflection.

Cindy-stewart / Getty Images

Mediation labyrinths have a long history, but adding one to your small backyard won’t take much time. Build a basic labyrinth with mulch or gravel, and then arrange bricks to form a continuous maze. If you have a bigger budget, you can plan a labyrinth with pavers, but you might want to call in a professional mason or stone layer to get it just right.

A backyard labyrinth will not only serve as a unique conversation piece but will also provide you the perfect setting for contemplating life’s mysteries.

11. Vertical garden

Pallet used for backyard vertical garden

Newnow / Getty Images

For those with an especially small yard, going vertical is a great way to add more greenery with limited space. There are many ways to accomplish a vertical garden, whether you use an existing fence or a found object — like an antique ladder or a shipping pallet. Just affix planters to your vertical surface, and there you have it.

12. Concrete pathway

Concrete path leads to modern home in backyard

Lisa Romerein / Getty Images

A thoughtfully laid out pathway through your backyard signals to guests that your yard is worth exploring. Use pre-made pavers or create your own with a pathway mold to simulate the look of irregular stepping stones.

To DIY with a pathway mold, mix concrete, and use the mold on a prepared surface to create a walkway that provides an instant old-world feel to any space. Whether you DIY or use pavers, this cheap and efficient project is one of the cleverest small backyard landscaping ideas you can do.

Tips on how to make the most of your small yard

  • Edging is everything: Even in small yards, the secret to making your space look perfect is by having clearly defined boundaries between major garden elements. You can achieve this polished look with edging materials such as steel, stone, and wood.
  • Mix it up: Great landscaping creates variety without chaos. Make sure you have a diverse palette of plants to work with. You’ll want multiples of some plants to provide the background, while other “specimen plants” should stand alone as highlights.
  • Plan ahead: Don’t just immediately break ground with a bunch of small yard landscaping ideas. That’s a recipe for disaster. Since you’re working with a small space, it’s important to plan as much as possible. Start with a base map diagram of your property. Sketch out some of your favorite ideas to scale, so you know exactly what you’ll need to buy to finish the job.

Frequently asked questions

What can you do with a small backyard? 

The landscaping possibilities are endless. But because your actual space is limited, you need to plan carefully. Vertical gardens, fire pits, or even a water feature are all doable projects.

How do you make a small backyard beautiful?

Bring a small backyard to life with creative landscaping. It’s amazing what you can do with a small amount of space and a clear vision.

What is considered a small yard?

Whether you consider your yard small or large is quite subjective — and relative — however, the average-size lawn in the United States is one-third of an acre.

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